Brasenose College

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1939.

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'Brasenose College', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford, (London, 1939), pp. 23-29. British History Online [accessed 18 June 2024].

. "Brasenose College", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford, (London, 1939) 23-29. British History Online, accessed June 18, 2024,

. "Brasenose College", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford, (London, 1939). 23-29. British History Online. Web. 18 June 2024,

Brasenose College

Brasenose College Arms

(8) Brasenose College stands on the W. side of Radcliffe Square. The walls are of local Oxfordshire stone and the roofs are covered with slates, tiles and lead. The college was founded in 1509 by William Smyth, Bishop of Lincoln and Sir Richard Sutton and took the place of the much earlier Brasenose Hall and Little University or King's Hall. The Old Quadrangle was begun at this date, but the Kitchen Wing may be of the 15th century. The Quadrangle was perhaps finished by 1516 and has the entrance tower on the E. and the Hall on the S.; the former chapel was on the first floor, W. of the hall, and the library on the same floor in the W. part of the N. range. Between 1604 and 1636 an attic storey was added, with dormer-windows, all round the old quadrangle except over the hall; Chrysostome Parkes was commissioned in 1635 and 1636 to construct the dormers on each side of the hall which probably completed the work; other minor alterations were made at the same period. In 1656 the building of the new Chapel S. of the old quadrangle on the site of Little St. Edmund Hall was begun; the timber roof of St. Mary's College, W. of Cornmarket Street, was re-used for the chapel and the plaster ceiling fixed to it was finished in 1659 from the design of John Jackson, overseer of the works; the "Little Cloister" or ground-floor of the library was built in 1657–9 together with the lobby on the N. side of the chapel, and the Library was completed a little later. The chapel was not consecrated till 1666 and the books were moved into the new library in 1664. In 1680 the hall floor was raised and a basement constructed beneath it; in 1683 the S. bay-window was added to the hall. The fireplace of the hall was inserted in 1748 and in 1754 the roof was ceiled; the library roof was ceiled in 1780 and the "cloister" below was converted into rooms in 1807. Various parts of the building were wholly or partly refaced at different dates in the 19th century and the parapets and dormer-windows restored or re-built. The W. range of the New Quadrangle was built in 1880–7, the E. and part of the S. range in 1887–9 and the S.W. angle in 1909.

The Gate Tower, the Hall and the Chapel are all noteworthy and the roof and plaster ceiling of the chapel are of particular interest.

Brasenose College

Architectural Description—The Old Quadrangle (Plate 80) (120 ft. by 91 ft. average) is entered by the Gate Tower in the middle of the E. range. This is of four storeys with an embattled parapet and a N.W. turret rising above it; it was built early in the 16th century but has been almost completely refaced; the E. and W. fronts reproduce the original arrangement and are nearly uniform. The four-centred outer archway has cusped spandrels in a square head; it is fitted with the original oak doors in two leaves with a moulded frame, ribs and rail; in the S. leaf is a late 17th-century wicket and at the head of the door is fixed a bronze mask or "brasen nose," mentioned in 1534 but perhaps of the 15th century. The second storey has an elaborately panelled surface finished with an embattled and panelled cresting; the panelling is pierced for two transomed windows each of two lights; at the base of this stage is a restored carving of the royal Tudor arms with angels supporting the crown above. The wall face of the third storey sets back and has a central bay-window flanked by niches containing modern figures; the top storey has a central niche with a modern figure and flanked by two-light windows. The inner or W. face of the tower is similar but rather simpler; there are no niches and the top storey has a single four-light window. The gate-hall has a modern ribbed sexpartite vault of stone springing from shafts with moulded capitals and bases; in the N. wall are two original doorways with hollow-chamfered jambs and four-centred arches in square heads. The room above is lined with late 17th-century bolection-moulded panelling and has a fireplace of the same period with a moulded marble surround; above it is an enriched panel with a cartouche of the arms of the college and pendants of fruit and flowers; the panels flanking the fireplace have applied carving with foliage and cherubs. The ceiling, of c. 1620–30, is divided into four large panels by moulded beams with vine-ornament and a central pendant; each panel has a geometrical design with fleurs-de-lis, roses, grapes and vine-leaves; at the angles are cartouches-of-arms of the college, Cholmondeley, Sutton and perhaps Tully. The room on the second floor has an 18th-century stone vault of two bays and the top room has chamfered tie-beams. The large framed chest with three locks is probably of the 15th century.

The E. Range, flanking the tower, was formerly of two storeys but a third storey was added early in the 17th century and largely refaced in modern times; it is finished with an embattled parapet. The original part of the front has a series of partly restored windows of one or two elliptical-headed lights in square heads with moulded labels; some of the lights have the heads cut square; N. of the tower, on the first floor are two oriel-windows one completely restored and one probably of the 17th century with square heads to the lights and modern corbelling; the oriel and bay-windows, S. of the tower, have been re-built. The W. face of the range is of two storeys with a range of re-built early 17th-century dormers above; the windows are similar to those on the E. front and on the first floor are two re-built oriel-windows of the 17th century; the doorways have moulded jambs and four-centred arches in square heads with labels. The re-built dormer-windows have three square-headed lights on the face and one on each canted side and are finished with gables. The doorway S. of the tower, the entrance to the old Principal's Lodging, is fitted with an early 16th-century door with moulded ribs and rails forming panels and a wicket with an early iron knocker. Inside, the range, some of the rooms N. of the tower are lined with late 17th and 18th-century panelling; the room above the porter's lodge is lined with panelling of c. 1620, with a cornice and a frieze enriched with brackets and scrolled monsters; the overmantel (Plate 22) is of three bays with rusticated Ionic columns supporting an entablature; the middle bay has a shield-of-arms of Radcliffe and the arcaded side bays have shields-of-arms of Sutton and Smyth. The part of the range S. of the tower is now the Bursary: it has a vaulted basement inserted in 1663. In the office and elsewhere is some late 17th-century panelling. The stair to the first floor has an elliptical arched entrance springing from Doric columns and a dog-gate with pierced panels.

The N. Range of the Old Quadrangle is generally similar in treatment to the side portions of the E. range. On the N. front the original lower windows are of one or two lights with a four-light window at the W. end; they have been partly restored. The early 17th-century top storey has partly restored windows of two or three square-headed lights and a modern embattled parapet. The S. front has doors and windows similar to those of the E. range, but the only oriel-window and all the dormer-windows are modern or re-built; the large sun-dial dates from 1719. Inside the range, several of the rooms have late 17th and 18th-century panelling. The easternmost staircase has early 18th-century balusters; the E. room on the first floor is lined with early 17th-century panelling with an arabesque frieze and cornice; the overmantel is of two bays with caryatid pilasters supporting an enriched entablature; the bays have enriched arcaded panels. A room further W. is lined with rather later panelling, finished with a fluted frieze and cornice; over the doorways are arcaded panels and over the fireplace is a panel with guilloche ornament. The ground-floor room W. of the middle staircase is lined with early to mid 17th-century panelling with a cornice; the overmantel is of two bays with panelled pilasters and panels with shaped heads. On the first floor the E. room has panelling of c. 1680 with an enriched panel over the fireplace; the W. room was panelled in Flanders oak by Arthur Frogley, joiner, in 1678; the doorways have broken pediments; the ceiling is divided into panels by early 16th-century moulded ribs. The two rooms at the W. end of the ground floor are lined with panelling of 1691; the eastern has a panelled overmantel with a classical landscape; the other room has been divided up; below it is a vaulted cellar. A room on the first floor is lined with early 17th-century panelling.

The W. Range is mostly concealed on the W. or outward face by the buildings of Lincoln College. The E. Front has doorways and windows similar to those of the N. range; the early 17th-century dormer-windows have been re-built. Above the doorway of the S. staircase is a modern copy of the foundation-stone, laid by the founders on June 1st, 1509. Inside the range, the room S. of the N. staircase is lined with late 17th-century panelling and the fireplace has a moulded surround of wood; above it and behind the overmantel is an early 17th-century painting on the plaster of the arms of the college with strapwork; the staircase has late 17th-century balusters and close strings. The room N. of the middle staircase has late 17th-century panelling; that to the S. is lined with mid 17th-century panelling with a cornice. On the first floor, the N. room has late 17th-century panelling with entablature, carved swags and fireplace and an original fan-light to the outer door-frame; the S. room has an original moulded outer door-frame with a four-centred arch in a square head and foliagespandrels; above it is a fan-light with early 17th-century half-balusters at the sides; the room is lined with late 17th-century panelling; the fireplace has a shelf with acanthus-foliage and the overmantel has an enriched panel with carved pendants of fruit and flowers. At the S. end of the range is a partly re-set late 17th-century staircase with twisted balusters, close strings and square newels with moulded terminals; the room to the N. has late 17th-century panelling. The N. room on the first floor is lined with early 18th-century panelling.

The S. Range has the Hall in the middle; the rest of the range is generally similar to the other sides of the quadrangle. The part to the W. contained the old chapel on the first floor and has a series of three tall early 18th-century windows now lighting the senior common-room; the three dormer-windows have been re-built. On the S. side the two windows of the common-room have been blocked. Inside this part of the range, the Common-Room is lined with panelling of 1708–11 with a dado-rail and cornice; flanking the fireplace and the middle window, opposite it, are fluted Corinthian columns with entablatures; the fireplace has a moulded marble surround, a carved shelf above and an enriched panel to the overmantel; the doorways have enriched over-doors; on the cornice of the room are cartouches-of-arms of Smyth, Paulet, Starkie (?), Sutton and Egerton. The block E. of the hall has three re-built dormer-windows; the lower windows are similar to those in the other ranges. On the S. face of the range is a doorway with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head; the W. spandrel has a shield with the date 1609. Inside this part of the range, at the foot of the staircase, are two three-centred arches of wood springing from half-columns and a free column of the Doric order. The room to the W. on the first floor is lined with late 17th-century bolection-moulded panelling with a moulded stone surround to the fireplace and an enriched shelf and panel above. The room to the E. of the staircase is at the S. end of the E. range; it is lined with early 17th-century panelling with an enriched frieze.

The Hall (49 ft. by 25 ft.) stands on an undercroft, similar to that at Lincoln College, and probably constructed about the middle of the 17th century. It has been divided up, but three of the cylindrical columns supporting the floor-beams of the hall above are visible; they have moulded capitals and bases and one bears the date 1680. The early 16th-century hall is of three bays with tabled buttresses and a modern embattled parapet. The E. bay on the N. has a much restored oriel with four four-centred and transomed lights on the face and two on each canted side; it is finished with a cornice and embattled parapet; the other two windows are of three four-centred lights in a square head; the doorway is modern but is set in a shallow porch, with a partly restored outer doorway, with moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with quatre-foiled spandrels; the soffit of the porch has quatre-foiled panels, a rose, a mitre, etc. Above it are two 17th-century carved heads, perhaps of the founders, and above them an original four-light window; in the parapet of the hall are two round-headed niches containing decayed busts of the founders by Hugh Davis, statuarist, 1635. The S. front of the hall has an oriel, uniform with that in the N. wall, but added in 1683; the other two windows are similar to those in the N. wall. The hall is lined with panelling erected in 1684 by Arthur Frogley, joiner; it is bolection-moulded and finished with a cornice; in the middle of the E. wall is a curved pediment with the royal Stuart arms and supporters; on the panelling is fixed the "Brasen Nose," a 12th or early 13th-century knocker consisting of a bronze mask and ring brought from Stamford in 1890; behind the panelling is an original doorway with a four-centred head. The screen, at the W. end, has two doorways, carved pendants from scallop-shells, between the bays, and a cornice with a central pediment, on which is a cartouche of the arms of the college and carved swags. In the N. oriel are early 17th-century glass roundels with figures of the two founders, an early 16th-century shield of the arms of Smyth and part of the frame of a similar shield and two later impaled shields-of-arms of Farmer and Pigott. The fireplace is of 1748 and the plaster ceiling of 1754. The original roof is of four bays with chamfered main timbers, cambered collar-beams, subsidiary collar-beam trusses and curved wind-braces. At the W. end of the roof is an 18th-century bell-cote containing a bell cast by Michael Darbie, 1654, and a small bell, uninscribed.

The Kitchen Wing projects from the S. side of the hall. It is partly of two and partly of one storey and was built perhaps in the 15th century. When the hall was built a window in the E. wall seems to have been half cut away so that the hall is later than the kitchen range. The external features are modern or have been much altered. Most of the kitchen is of one storey and has an open roof, possibly mediæval; it is of two bays and of collar-beam type with large braces forming a two-centred arch, and curved wind-braces.

The Library Range adjoins the E. range of the old quadrangle on the S. and is of two storeys, ashlar-faced. It was begun in 1657 and finished before 1664. The E. front has been entirely refaced but reproduces the original design except for the modern windows of the lower storey. At the N. end is a doorway with a four-centred arch, square head and broken pediment with a cartouche of the royal Stuart arms. The upper floor, forming the library, has a series of nine windows, each of two cinque-foiled and transomed lights in a round head with a key-stone; in the S. bay is an oriel-window of three lights, the middle round-headed and enriched and the sidelights surmounted by entablatures; the base rests on corbelling and has carved swags; the wall is finished with a series of pedimented features interrupting the embattled parapet. The W. front has also been refaced; the parapet and library-windows are uniform with those on the E. The lower storey has an entablature with carved swags on the frieze and interrupted by shallow buttresses; each free bay has two oval windows set in a rectangular panel, but in two bays a modern doorway has been introduced; at the N. end is a projecting porch, with a round-headed doorway, a double pediment, and an entablature with a frieze of swags above; the S. wall has a single oval window; the upper floor of the porch has a W. window like those of the library. The design of the lower storey of the range is continued along the N. side of the chapel as a lobby of three bays; the windows of the middle bay have been converted into doorways. Inside the range, the ground-floor formed an open cloister, used for burials; it was converted into rooms in 1807. It was formerly divided into nine bays by plain pilasters and ribs forming elliptical arches. The Library was remodelled and the ceiling inserted under James Wyatt in 1779–80. The Lobby has an ashlar barrel-vault.

The Chapel of St. Hugh and St. Chad (Plate 78) consists of a Choir (52¾ ft. by 25¾ ft.) and an Ante-Chapel (49 ft. by 21 ft.). It is ashlar-faced and was begun in 1656 and consecrated in 1666; the design is a mixture of Classical and Gothic details. The E. end has been entirely refaced and has a large window of five cinque-foiled lights with wheel-tracery in a two-centred head; flanking it and at the angles of the building are Corinthian pilasters standing on a high stylobate and supporting an entablature carried over the head of the window in the form of a broken and scrolled pediment; this is surmounted by a cartouche of the arms of Radcliffe and swags; flanking the windows are panels surmounted by swags and cherub-heads; the gable is finished with three pedestals with urns and a curved parapet between them finished with scalloped ornament on the upper surface. The free bays of the N. wall and all the bays of the S. wall are divided by Corinthian pilasters ranging with those on the E. wall and supporting an entablature; the projections are carried up above the parapet to support vases; the parapet has a scalloped cresting like the E. gable. Each bay has a window of three cinque-foiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head. The N. end of the ante-chapel is treated similarly to the choir but, elsewhere, the pilasters are replaced by shallow buttresses, finished with crocketted pinnacles and the entablature by a parapet string-course. There are low gables at each end and in the middle of the W. front; that on the N. front is finished like the E. gable but the others have pinnacles at the apex. The N. end has a window of four cinque-foiled ogee lights with tracery in a square head and the entablature above has a broken pediment with swags and a cartouche of the arms of the college; flanking the window are panels and enrichment similar to those on the E. wall; below the window is a doorway with a round head, key-block and cartouches in the spandrels; flanking it are Ionic columns supporting an entablature and broken pediment. In the E. wall of the N. arm, and opening into the lobby is a doorway (Plate 6) with an eared architrave, elliptical head, key-block and a broken pediment with a carved cartouche. The S. wall has a window, similar to that in the N. wall but with an elliptical head and label. In the W. wall is a window, similar to the E. window but with a plain moulded label. The timber roof of the choir and the middle part of the ante-chapel is of the 15th century and of hammer-beam type; it was removed from the chapel of St. Mary's College in 1656 and re-erected at Brasenose; the greater part of the timber-work is concealed by the plaster vault erected in 1659 but the hammerbeams, pendants and wall-posts appear below it; there are eight ancient trusses resting on moulded corbels; the wall-posts and hammer-beams are moulded and have curved braces with trefoiled spandrels; the side-posts have moulded bases and pendants and curved braces to the collar-beams forming four-centred arches; on the collars stands a second pair of side-posts with moulded bases and curved braces to the upper collar-beam; the purlins have curved wind-braces. At the W. end of the choir there are apparently two trusses but the western is a 17th-century imitation and does not extend above the ceiling. The wood and plaster ceiling (Plate 77) was designed by the "overseer" John Jackson and is of panelled fanvaulted type springing from the side posts of the timber roof and with panelled cross-vaults between the hammer-beams; the panels of the cones have ogee and round heads and the spandrels along the middle have small panelled pendants; the ribs dividing the bays have cusped soffits and at the W. end of the choir is a panelled band springing from the apparent doubletruss. The N. and S. bays of the ante-chapel have similar plaster vaults springing directly from the corbels and central pendants.

The Roof from St. Mary's College Re-erected in Brasenose Chapel. Largely Concealed by the Plaster Vault

Fittings—Chests: In ante-chapel—two, plain and dovetailed with strap-hinges and ornamental scutcheons, late 17th-century. Doors: In ante-chapel—in E. doorway, of two panels with shouldered head, c. 1660; in N. doorway, of two panelled leaves with strap-hinges and pilaster-strip in middle, c. 1660. Masons' Marks: On N. wall of chapel—various masons' marks. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In lobby N. of chapel—on N. wall, (1) to William Wood, 1679, stone tablet with moulded frame; on S. wall, (2) to John Myddleton, 1670–1, oval stone tablet with putti and two cartouches-of-arms; (3) to Thomas Yate, S.T.P., 1681, tablet with segmental head and cartouche-of-arms; (4) to James Buerdsell, M.A., 1700, oval tablet with enriched frame and cherubs. Floor-slabs: In lobby—(1) to K.B. (Katherine Butler), 1681; (2) to I.H., 1677; (3) to E.C., 1688; (4) to Thomas Yate, 1681. Picture: a Deposition, after Ribera, painted at Naples, c. 1630. Pulpit: (Plate 44) In ante-chapel—hexagonal with entablature and panelled sides each with a perspective arch, moulded base on turned legs with stretchers, c. 1660. Screen: (Plate 79) At W. end of choir—of three bays on W. face with modern projecting organ-gallery carried on columns, side-bays each with two perspective-arch panels; on front of gallery refixed cartouche-of-arms of John Cartwright; on E. face, round-headed doorway with pierced spandrels and fitted with panelled doors, upper panels having pierced and strapped ovals; flanking doorway, panels forming backs of stalls with hexagonal hoods or canopies supported on shafts, a further pair of panels beyond with perspective arches; the screen finished with an entablature, pediment and cartouche-of-arms of Radcliffe; all c. 1660. Stalls: fifteen old stalls on each side, with shaped arms and moulded tops, panelled backs with perspective arches and divided by Ionic pilasters supporting the carved console-brackets of the continuous canopy; desks with panelled fronts and standards with ball-terminals; panelling at back of stalls continued beyond them to the E. wall; c. 1660. Miscellanea: Eleven hassocks or kneelers in woollen needlework, six with the arms of Smyth, the others with those of Sutton, borders of foliage and the date 1666.

Incorporated in the basement of the modern building on the W. side of the New Quadrangle are three 12th and 13th-century capitals, a 16th-century fireplace, etc. For the new Principal's Lodging see monument (55).